Dependency

The concept of dependency in mainstream aid and development discourse has come to refer to the inadvertent reliance on handouts created by wanton aid-giving. It is often argued that such dependency hinders development in the South. Poor countries have to learn to rely on themselves if they ever hope to stand on their own two feet.

I take the position that the above definition of dependency flips the actual existing dependency relationship upside-down. Rich countries depend on the developing world to stay poor and actively work to sustain the current arrangement of things. Low-priced minerals and other primary commodities, cheap labour, and favourable exchange rates for Northerners when they go vacationing (or to do development work) in the South, among other things, are what this dependency is about.

Whereas the conventional definition creates the image of a despondent, pathetic, third world which has become further stultified as a result of the goodwill of the North, a more accurate image would show a ravenous, exploitative, first world which does all it can, feigning goodwill all along, to maintain its superior position.

Poor countries can certainly become reliant on aid from the North, which then hinders their development. This occurs, however, not by accident as it is usually suggested, but by design. Aid given for budget support wins influence for the donor over policy decision-making – “He who feeds you, controls you” (Thomas Sankara); the influence is palpably used to undermine development. As for multilateral aid, the development sector has been forced to become structured in a way that only allows it to take palliative measures in trying to alleviate poverty; and the efforts to help often undermine economic development and democracy in the long-run.

Development organizations routinely claim to be concerned about dependency, though most often they miss altogether the way in which dependency actually exists.

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6 responses to “Dependency

  • Savannah

    Nice insight Umair. Developed countries take advantage of their position of “the aider” to ensure the country their are supposedly helping out remains dependent on them.

    Is this a common thought in Ghana? How do the people feel about the Northerns aid?

    • Umair

      In comparison to us Northerners, people in Ghana have a much clearer understanding of which way the dependency is set up.

      There are varying opinions on aid money and NGOs.

  • Sylvie Spraakman

    Good insight Umair. I think this could be followed up with some of the reasons why third world countries enter these relationships… well that could probably take a book or tow. But maybe you could focus on some that you’ve seen through your experience thus far, or something like that.

    And how are things so far in Ghana? Talk about that!

    • Umair

      Things in Ghana are good. I’m learning lots. Will talk about that when I get my bearings straight and I’m properly fitted into things. Though I’m not sure that it’ll take the form of relating day-to-day events and experiences, ’cause I’m not a very good story-teller. Let’s see.

  • Adam

    In recent news: The French Government wants to help out with Ghana’s economic development. I especially like the line from: http://ghanaoilonline.org/2011/07/french-prime-minister-visits-newly-oil-rich-ghana/ that goes:

    ‘[the French prime minister François] Fillon said the visit showed “France’s willingness to participate in Ghana’s economic development,” adding that his country was re-orienting its policies toward Africa to further engage non-French-speaking nations.’

    Oh good! Right? High fives all around non-French-speaking African nations, I guess.

    More on “bilateral relations” and “respect for the rule of law and democracy at”:
    http://graphic.com.gh/news/page.php?news=14303

    I have dreams about good intentions sometimes.

    • Umair

      “I do believe in amenity allied to barbarism, in compassion co-existing with complete brutality, and in essential rectitude underlying the most obvious corruption.”
      – Joseph Conrad

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